Back 4 Blood review: more than just Left 4 Dead

If you’ve never fought off a horde of zombies while Dick Dale’s (and Pulp Fiction’s) “Misirlou” blares on a beat-to-shit jukebox, by all means, give it a go. That’s how one of the missions toward the middle of Back 4 Blood’s first act ends. While a group of survivors tries to escape by bus, you and your crew — the Cleaners — get to play bait. Surf rock captures zombies’ interest like nothing.

Rarely does one get to defend the jukebox. Back 4 Blood where you get to just “be cool, Honey Bunny” instead of stressed. Left 4 Dead’s spiritual predecessor, we are all familiar with it. Back 4 BloodThe zombie horde, you know. And that’s what Back 4 Blood Does: They take Left 4 Dead seriously. Someone — or many someones — at Turtle Rock Studios spent a lot of time thinking about what Left 4 Dead would look like in 2021. And all that thinking paid off, as what’s different between Left 4 Dead and Back 4 Bloodis as intriguing as their many similarities.

Back 4 Blood feels like someone dropped Left 4 Dead in some radioactive ooze and let it sit for 12 years — which isn’t surprising, since Turtle Rock Studios is composed of many of the same developers who originally built Left 4 Dead. While it has the same bones structure and shape as the original, the current era’s features have been adapted to make the machine more modern. Weapons have color rarities and attachments, there’s a useful ping system, it looks gorgeous, and yeah, it’s got some deck building.

No longer are people content to play Left 4 Dead for entertainment. Now it’s for fun Progress, whether it be in the form cosmetics or usable loot. Back 4 Blood’s progression takes the shape of a game mechanic that’s become familiar over the past several years: cards and decks. By completing runs, you’ll earn points to spend at a shop in town, permanently unlocking new cards. The cards will be put into a deck so you can play them during your next run.

These cards add yet another layer to Left 4 Dead’s already roguelike formula — transforming it into a rogueLITE instead. Even though they’re all on the same maps, each run differs slightly from the previous. The Director — Turtle Rock’s HAL 9000-esque name for its zombie AI — plays a card at the start of each run. This might be a way to get an incentive or even a chance at achieving the exit on lower difficulty. At higher levels, it’ll give enemies different perks to make them more lethal, or make it easier for you to alert the horde. The Director can be defeated by you playing your cards. Your stats can also be affected or enhanced with these cards. You can transform your basic kick into an extremely lethal weapon, and another card may increase your health or allow you to deal more damage using shotguns.

As you run through levels, playing cards and dodging the Director’s shenanigans, you’re collecting and upgrading your weapons. You’re picking up coins as well, which you spend at safe houses on improvements to your guns or pills to keep yourself alive. These coins are only useful for the run you’re on, so you have to spend them all before the finale, since you can’t take them with you. And while you restart with basic weapons and cash each time you begin a new run, you’ll always be able to buy some more cards and build a permanent deck once you get back to camp.

Back 4 Blood’s cards and currencies are nice, and they make you feel like you’ll walk away from each play session with something new in your pocket. But what surprised me most about Turtle Rock Studios’ new zombie venture was the sheer diversity of its levels.

Sure, the first several missions took me through some factorylike areas, made me interact with objects to “alert the horde,” and all the other Left 4 Dead hallmarks. I then played missions that required me to save survivors and find the safe-room within minutes. One mission asked me to destroy three zombie nests looking for a dead man’s arm, and when I finally found it, I had to use it as a melee weapon so I could defend myself before scanning it to open the safe room. I was asked by another mission to load and fire howitzer shells in a tunnel that would be used to stop the horde. Then, naturally, came the jukebox.

A group of Cleaners take out a zombie nest

Image: Turtle Rock Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Every time I’d start to feel bored by the classic Left 4 Dead formula,Back 4 Blood Would do anything to get me to stealth-level or make me build my safe room. Left 4 Dead 2 had a level where you needed to fill up a racecar in a mall with gas so you could escape, and it’s still the one I remember most vividly. Other similar scenes were found in the Left 4 Dead series, though they were mostly used for the final chapters. Back 4 BloodIt provided me with a lot of variety, which kept me interested even when playing with bots or random players.

Left 4 Dead is an amazing relic. I, along with many others, spent hundreds of hours on it in high school. There are many other games, such as Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Even better! Aliens: Fireteam EliteMy confidence grew when I tried to take more of an instructor-based approach. Back 4 Blood’s more classic bone structure would crumble under the pressure. ButBack 4 Blood is more like that makeshift, armor-clad Hummer you see in every zombie show and movie: The bones of what it once was are easy to see, but it’s been reinforced to survive in a new environment.

Back 4 Blood On Oct. 12, the game will go live after its early access period. It will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (Windows PC), Xbox One (Xbox Series X), and Xbox Series X. Turtle Rock Studios provided a prerelease code for the game. The Xbox Series X review was conducted. Vox Media also has affiliate relationships. Although these partnerships do not impact editorial content, Vox Media could earn commissions on products sold via affiliate links. Find out more. additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here

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